Why not cut the military budget?

    Fiscal responsibility seems to be all the rage these days. Or, at least that’s what Tea Partiers claim to be motivated by, right? They tell us that it’s high time that we get serious, tighten our belts, and cut “big government” to the bone, before the inevitable happens, and the country goes careening over the precipice of Socialism.

    I have a hard time taking this seriously, given that a great number of these individuals on the right presently receive government assistance in some form, but, for the sake of argument, let’s take them at their word that they’re willing to significantly cut the budget. And, as long as we’re ignoring stuff, let’s also ignore the fact that these same folks didn’t seem to have a problem when it was George Bush running up the deficits, which would indicate to me that their anger probably has more to do with the young black man currently residing in the White House than it does with deficit spending, but I’ve been wrong before. At any rate, let’s take them at their word that they want to make significant cuts. So, where do we start?

    The Republicans tried to address it in their “Pledge to America.” Of course, their pledge, as it included permanent tax cuts for the top 2% of American earners, and articulated next to nothing in the way of cuts to offset the impact of extending those Bush tax cuts, didn’t really provide much of a roadmap for fiscal responsibility… While we’re on the subject, the following excerpt comes from an ABC News piece of Joe Biden.

    …The vice president said “if I hear one more Republican tell me about balancing the budget, I am going to strangle them. To the press: that’s a figure of speech.”

    The Republicans’ new “Pledge to America,” he said, will increase the debt by $1 trillion.

    “These guys have absolutely no credibility, no credibility on debt,” he said. “Folks, look, we’ve seen this movie before. We’ve seen this movie. We know how it ends”…

    My sense is that no one wants to cut the budget. But, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the Tea Party is real in that regard. Maybe there is a movement afoot to really follow though. Certainly there are some signs from inside the beltway that people are taking the threat seriously, like today’s Wall Street Journal op-ed penned by AEI’s Arthur Brooks, the Heritage Foundation’s Ed Feulner, and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, defending the incredible amounts of money we spend on the U.S. military each year. (The title of the piece is, Peace Doesn’t Keep Itself.) Here, with more on that, is a clip from The Economist:

    …A quick glance at the federal budget is enough to see that military spending is far and away the largest expense after Medicare and Social Security. That fact combined with the observation that America’s titanic military budget is larger than the military budgets of China, Britain, France, Russia, Germany, Japan, Saudia Arabia, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, and Australia combined is more than enough to suggest to common sense that there’s room here to cut a bit of fat.

    But not so fast! According to AEI’s Arthur Brooks, Heritage’s Ed Feulner, and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol, any attempt to shrink the big government of garrisons and guns will “make the world a more dangerous place, and … impoverish our future.” Whose side are you on, tea partiers?

    Messrs Brooks, Feulner, and Kristol assert that military spending “is neither the true source of our fiscal woes, nor an appropriate target for indiscriminate budget-slashing in a still-dangerous world”. They aver that “anyone seeking to restore our fiscal health should look at entitlements first, not across-the-board cuts aimed at our men and women in uniform”.

    This is bogus. Sure, Medicare and Social Security cost more, but spending on war and its infrastructure remains a titanic expense. The path from debt, whether for governments or families, is to cut back across the board. If you’re in the red and you spend a ridiculous amount of your income on your porcelain egret collection, the fact that you spend even more on rent and student loan payments is obviously no excuse not to cut back on egret miniatures. And, in fact, America’s martial profligacy is a “true source of our fiscal woes”. According to Joseph Stiglitz and Linda Bilmes:

    There is no question that the Iraq war added substantially to the federal debt. This was the first time in American history that the government cut taxes as it went to war. The result: a war completely funded by borrowing. U.S. debt soared from $6.4 trillion in March 2003 to $10 trillion in 2008 (before the financial crisis); at least a quarter of that increase is directly attributable to the war. And that doesn’t include future health care and disability payments for veterans, which will add another half-trillion dollars to the debt. As a result of two costly wars funded by debt, our fiscal house was in dismal shape even before the financial crisis—and those fiscal woes compounded the downturn.

    Perhaps because they see the wrong-headedness of their line of defence, Messrs Brooks, Feulner, and Kristol retreat to the claim that in order to make money, America has to spend money…

    So, do you think, in this fearful nation in which we live, there’s really a significant push toward cutting military expenditures? And, if not, why the op-ed from Kristol and company? Was it just to scare Republicans into voting come November 2nd? Do they just want to plant the seed now that some shadowy entities out there want to slash the military, making us a ripe target for the likes of Cuba? And, where do you stand?

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      20 Comments

      1. Posted October 6, 2010 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

        And I meant to include a link to this poster.

      2. John Galt
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 6:20 am | Permalink

        If anything, we need to double the military budget. In fact, we should double it every year until we have an entire army of peace keeping robots that can run off the blood of our enemies and shoot death ray with their eyes.

      3. Robert
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 6:29 am | Permalink

        It’s so strange to me that people talk about “military spending” as if it actually all goes to the military. That may have been the case for the most part back in World War II, but today the bulk of it never ends up being spent to actually improve or support the military at all. Most of the money goes into corporate profits, graft and waste. If anybody was really serious about their claims of patriotism and keeping a strong military they wouldn’t allow this to run rampant as it has. For every $1 of military budget how many pennies do you think actually go to support or improve the military itself? What was the percentage during WWII? These are the most important and relavant questions of all regarding this issue and yet nobody ever talks about it. There is a reason, and it’s not a good one.

        Simply by returning to WWII standards of integrity in military spending we could probably cut the budget in half. There isn’t a soul around with any sort of voice in the matter who would suggest such a thing though. They know what the consequesnces would be. Hense the absolute silence.

      4. Peter Larson
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 8:17 am | Permalink

        Reagan won on promising to increase defense spending. I remember my parents saying they were going to vote for him because he would increase defense spending and me wondering how that benefited us. Even at 10, I wondered these things.

        This goes back to a general (and simplistic) philosophy that the only role the American federal government has to play is military defense of the Union.I’m sure that the colonies were worried about British invasion, so this thinking may have made sense back then, although I am no expert.

        I theorize that it’s much simpler for people to get their head around the necessity for defense against a hostile world and much more difficult for people to get their head around the need for food safety, the NIH, the CDC and the EPA.

        Also, there is much to be said for the rural states dependence on the military for jobs. It seems that every resident of rural North Carolina has served at one point or another or is involved in some aspect of industry or support for the military and it’s bases. This also rallies voter support.

        Realistically, though, it’s just more Repuglican talking points aimed at getting a hold of power and diverting money into corporate coffers. It’s tired, kind of like the constant exploitation of meaningless religious and moral issues that the Repugs continually beat at, with total success.

      5. Peter Larson
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 8:18 am | Permalink

        I say halve the military budget, increase funds for international development and aid, bring our school standards up, make University education free for all and provide universal health coverage for all residents of the United States.

        That’s my entirely unrealistic Christmas wish.

      6. Oliva
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        Peter, I would like to share your Christmas wish. Thanks for composing such a good one. (Plus jumper cables and warm socks . . . for all!)

      7. Lionel Richie, Jr.
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 9:26 am | Permalink

        I would like to amend the Xmas wish to suit my needs. Completely decimate the defense budget, halve funds for international development and aid, throw away school standards and keep college expensive so poor kids who go on athletic scholarships will have at least some kind of job after they are injured in the pros.

      8. TeacherPatti
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        I’d like to share in that wonderful wish! While we bring school standards up, I’d love to also get us back to the idea of neighborhood schools (non-charter, non-profit…real old-time public schools) too!

      9. EOS
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

        My wish is that we would eliminate all foreign aid and stop any portion of the defense budget that goes toward nation building outside the borders of the United States. Relocate the troops that are now in Korea and Germany and put them on the Mexican border to safeguard our citizens from the drug violence and reduce illegal immigration. Eliminate the Federal Education department, all K-12 public schools, EPA, and mass transit subsidies as well as a host of other Federal programs that grow larger each year despite their ineffectiveness in solving the problems. Establish the safety net at the local level with local controls.

      10. Brackinald Achery
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        I agree. We’d save a lot of money if we knocked it off with this Wilsonian foreign interventionist crap. I say if you want military aid from the U.S., become our 51st State. If not, you’re your own country and you should take care of yourself. And no more military bases in other countries. That’s just … I almost said bogue, but that’d be dumb and I don’t know how to spell it right anyway. If a country attacks us, we do a good old fashioned declared war of conquest, and kick their ass as efficiently as possible; if they don’t, we leave them alone. If it’s a non-country entity that attacks us, like terrorists, we issue letters of Marque and Reprisal like we did with the Barbary pirates back in the day, and let private entities handle it.

      11. Edward
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 11:11 am | Permalink

        Why don’t we just take away their guns and give the shovels? God knows there’s a lot of infrastructure work around the United States that needs to be done. We could start with some nation building in Detroit.

      12. Etoc
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

        As most of our fighting these days is done with drones, I say we have kids fight our wars from their living rooms. If we make a nice interface, so it’s like a video game, they’ll do it for free. And, all the men who are soldiers now can get to work in our freedom mines or one of our mechanically extruded chicken plans.

      13. Dirtgrain
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

        Obama is wagging the dog.

      14. Posted October 7, 2010 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        I’m almost afraid to ask Etoc, but what is a mechanically extruded chicken plan????????

        That plan is awesome btw, if we taken EOS’ sage advice and eliminate all public K-12 schools.

      15. Mike Shecket
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Rich old people should have to pay for their own retirement and medical care. Old people of average means should have to pay for at least some of their own retirement and medical care. Young, poor people’s taxes (not to mention payroll taxes from illegal immigrants, of all people) should not go to provide free, unlimited medical care to people who could pay for it themselves.

        A few months before she died, my grandma, at 88 years old, had an MRI done on her back at a cost of something like $20,000. The MRI showed that nothing could be done surgically to lessen her back pain. She paid nothing. She could have afforded to pay the entire amount; a 10%-20% copay would have been no sweat. If I wanted to get a scan like that, I would basically have had to pay $20,000. I loved my grandma very much, but that’s not fair and it’s not good policy. But old people vote in numbers, and many of them are short-sighted and selfish.

        In theory, I could agree with the Tea Party on some things in terms of fiscal policy, but they’re demonstrably, entirely unserious, and classless to boot.

      16. Isaac
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 10:32 pm | Permalink

        EOS,

        That nation building and foreign aid includes Israel, right?

      17. Mike Shecket
        Posted October 7, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

        Oh, and cut the military budget too, yes.

      18. Laff a Lympics
        Posted October 9, 2010 at 3:38 am | Permalink

        Cut Israel loose, baby.
        Sink or swim.

      19. Thai Guy
        Posted April 2, 2011 at 4:28 am | Permalink

        Any momentum on this issue? I heard that the Democratic budget had about $30 billion in cuts. What percentage of those come out of the Defense budget?

      20. Blazing Sulli
        Posted October 3, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

        What about if we take soldiers, cut the defense budget, and stop building bases in other countries. Take the soldiers and start a National Infrastructure Rebuilding project, as most of the highway system needs updating, and after we climb out of this debt, reinvest previous defense budget into the highway building. 3 birds w/ one stone, defense budget cut, soldiers still employed, and highway repaired. Also, reimburse public education system in a selective way. For instance target urban and lower class areas, which are in DESPERATE need of help. Starting with the lowest performing schools continuing to the less desperate once we balance the books. Cut foreign aid as well, except if the UN determines extreme measures, in which case, we don’t need to send 1 trillion in aid.

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      1. [...] our conversation of a few days ago about cutting the military budget, I just heard that Barney Frank and Ron Paul, along with 55 congressional co-signers sent a letter [...]

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